Part Eight: Taketori

   Silver flashed, blood sprayed. Aya didn't even stop, just continued running through the darkened house. His boots thudded quietly against the carpeted ground as he moved with a feline grace and lethal intent. His whole being seemed to proclaim death, and he swept down the halls like the Angel of Death, his blade singing a whistling tune as it arced through the air to deliver doom upon those in his way. He did not care, at this point, whether they were guards or just workers. If they were in his path, if they were in this _building_, they were enemies, and he would take them out.

    The time was quickly approaching for a confrontation long overdue, yet it was not approaching fast enough. Aya turned a sharp corner, the layout of the building clear in his mind as if he had engraved it there, the quickest path to Taketori's most likely resting place shining like the light at the end of a tunnel, but this light was red as the color of blood, a tunnel to hell or redemption.

    Aya took out three more men before they had even registered his presence, stopping only for the briefest of a second to make sure they were dead. A quick second slash across one that was still struggling completed the task, and Aya was on the move again. He could feel his earrings brush against the flesh of his lower jaw, swinging and brushing in tune to his movements, seeming to whisper to him to hurry, to move faster. Taketori would not wait forever, and every second wasted was another second that his sister slipped further away from him. He would not let her go.

    His ears picked up the sound of his headset now and then, as the others would give scattered, rapid comments on their progress. His mind registered them, then instantly forgot them as they were not important to him. He didn't care that Balinese had cleared the second floor, nor did he care that the man inquired after Siberian's well-being. Bombay was busy checking up on everyone's positions. Although the computer had been ditched after the very first steps in the mission, he felt it was his duty to make sure everyone was okay and to keep an eye on how effective the mission was. Aya had a feeling Omi was more level headed than he at the moment, which was a bit odd since he was the leader. Then again, Omi did not have a long standing grudge against their target and have a sister at risk. Aya believed he had a right to be a little off.

    It was strange, he supposed. He didn't feel angry. He was just...there. And ready. Forty minutes had passed since they'd gotten a place for Taketori's newest hiding hole, and Aya's anger had slowly pulled back into a small ball deep within his gut, ready to be unleashed or used if necessary. His face was expressionless, his eyes unreadable, as he delivered death to those before him, answering Bombay's questions in a steady tone that sounded like the felt. "Abyssinian, what is your position?"

    "Third hall, north side. Total of thirty-seven dead, no wounded. I have cleared the other points and am making my way towards the center." This house was designed like some sort of maze- one could weave their way all over the floor without ever seeing half of it. He passed through a rounded doorway, making his way towards the library. There were three places that Nagi had guessed Taketori would be- the library, the top floor, or the roof. Aya didn't care which one the man was at, as long as he was there and knew where Aya's sister was resting.

    He kicked the library doors open with little ceremony, storming in, his long jacket swirling around him as he did so. In the middle was a central staircase, leading up. The side walls were lined with large volumes, the shelves going from the floor to the ceiling. The only inhabitant in the room was a waiter, who was kneeling on the floor and holding a tray above his head. There was something on the tray. Aya started towards the man, sword raised.

    "Please, spare me!" the waiter babbled. "I beg of you! Please, look! The guest has left this for you!" The man was shaking visibly, scared of the prospect of dying. Aya pressed the sword point to the man's throat, taking the tray away. On it were two things- a pair of shackles and a scrap of paper with Taketori's signature. Cold fury and repulsion briefly rose in Aya, and he tasted bile in the back of his throat before he managed to push it down. No. He would not lose his cool. He didn't realize he'd applied more force to the sword until he heard the waiter sobbing. Aya looked down at the man, then raised the sword and struck him with the hilt of his weapon. The waiter crumpled, either unconscious or dead. Aya didn't care which.

    He threw the tray and its contents to the side, starting up the stairwell. Through the headset he heard a brief, alarmed comment from Siberian, but he hadn't been paying attention enough to hear what the younger man had actually said. He could hear Balinese and Bombay inquire as to what the trouble was, and the boy gave a shaky reply that he was all right, along with an entreaty for his team mates to be careful of numerous hidden weapons, booby traps. Satisfied that his team was still in working order, Aya continued on his new path. There were doors to the sides, leading off to the other floors, but he didn't spare them a single glance. He was aiming for the door at the top. His violet eyes fixed on it.

    There was a slight shift in the air that Aya felt more than heard, and he shot the wall to his right a sharp glance just as it fired a small barrage of darts at him. He hopped to the side to try to avoid it. Six stuck in him, three bounced off. Two of the six barely pierced his jacket, three went straight through the jacket and into his shirt, and one pierced his skin. Snarling a quiet curse, Aya yanked them all out impatiently. Of course, his oath had not gone unnoticed, and Omi was quick to respond to it.

    "Abyssinian, status?"

    "Central stairwell is lined with darts," was Aya's cursory reply.

    "Yeah, be careful of those," Siberian spoke up. "I ran into some, but all eight hit my opponent instead. Took him out pretty quickly."

    "Poison?" Balinese asked thoughtfully.

    "I don't know. Poison, sleep, I didn't check."

    "You weren't hit, were you, Abyssinian?" Omi asked worriedly.

    "No." Aya continued up. If eight took out Siberian's opponent, he had more time before the effects would set in, as only one had struck him. He sped up, this time letting his gaze sweep across the sides of the shaft the stairwell curved up. He quickly reached the top floor. The door was locked, but that was no obstacle for him. One powerful kick dealt straight to the doorknob, and it cracked and slid obediently open. Aya swept out, straight into some waiting thugs. There were probably nine of them, but numbers were just numbers. If nine wanted to face death, then they would die. Aya managed to avoid getting injured, as these men did not carry guns. He stood among their fallen bodies, running that thought over in his mind. Why would they be armed with little more than long knives if they'd known he was coming? It was obvious that they had been waiting for him, so why were they not better prepared?

    He stepped over them, adjusting his grip on his sword handle as he felt a dizzying wave cross through him. He blinked several times to adjust his eyesight, moving forward. Fujimiya Ran was not going to be slowed by some dart- not until Taketori was burning in hell and his sister was safely tucked away back in the hospital. He turned a corner, and stopped dead in his tracks.

    A heavyset man smiled back at him, sipping indulgently at a champagne glass. "Hello, Ran. Fancy meeting you here."

    Aya's grip tightened on his sword. "Taketori..."


   Schuldig was allowed to drive on the way back, and he knew the reason. It was because he drove faster. His smirk twitched. ~Looks like I'm useful for _something_,~ he snorted mentally as he made a sharp turn. Crawford, who usually refused to let him take the wheel- much less remain in the car when Schuldig was driving- was silent in the seat beside him. Schuldig knew Crawford was mentally running over his vision or visions, sorting them out. That damn barrier was still up, so the German was unable to sneak a peek at whatever had bothered his leader. He could take a guess- and Schuldig had so much fun guessing- that it had to do with Aya. There had been a flash of red before Crawford had locked off his mind, a red that was too bright to be blood and too unique to be mistaken. That had been Aya's hair color.

    Schuldig sighed inwardly, glancing in the mirror to take a look at their newest toy. He couldn't wait to show it off and play with it. His smirk widened and he turned his eyes back to the road, mentally ticking off a time calendar. One hour for them to get to the building with Crawford's driving, fifty minutes back with his. Schuldig reached out to touch Nagi's mind. They were only about ten minutes away from their destination, so it was easy to slip into the boy's mind. Farfarello and Nagi were working together, with Nagi as Farfarello's babysitter. The thoughts running through Nagi's mind were quick and scattered, of so many subjects that it was funny. Nagi was dealing with Farfarello, a slight headache from using his gift, worry over Omi's safety- wasn't that cute, _gag_-, questions about Taketori's whereabouts, and a brief thought or two towards Aya's safety. Schuldig followed the last train of thought. Apparently the building was frequented with booby tracks, and Nagi suspected that Aya had been caught in one.

    Schuldig snorted quietly, eyes flicking to the clock before returning to the street before them, taking a hand off the wheel to brush locks of hair behind his head while the other one turned the wheel so they made a sharp turn. That redhead could take care of himself. And if he couldn't...well, Crawford would take care of him instead. Schuldig sniggered inwardly, knowing that it was wiser to keep the sound in since Crawford was so tense. Sure, the American's appearance was calm and composed, but no one could fool Schuldig. He'd known Crawford long enough to know that his leader was tense.

    /Crawford, you need to get laid,/ Schuldig sent at Crawford, knowing it would just rebound off the barrier without the man ever hearing it. /Replace that stick up your ass with something more comfortable./ His thoughts flickered towards Aya again. Oh, what he would have given to catch Crawford's thoughts when he'd told the man to kiss Aya. Sure, Crawford's reaction- locking Schuldig out- was enough to give the German amusement, but still...Knowing that Crawford was reacting towards the statement and actually hearing the reaction were two different things. Schuldig still thought it was funny that Crawford had managed to get tangled up with his opposing leader. Crawford didn't realize just how fascinated he was by the cold red-haired man. The man probably wouldn't recognize desire if it bit him on the ass.

    Ah, then there was Aya...For someone with such a guarded exterior, his insides were such a mess. Aya had such a wide variety of emotions, yet showed only a small portion of them- probably because the man had no clue how to deal with them. Schuldig sniggered again. Definite virgin. He bet Aya knew nothing of sex outside of Yohji's outrageous stories. Someone would probably have to give him a step-by-step manual in order for him to understand it.

    With two such idiots around, Schuldig was sure to have a constant source of entertainment. His smirk started to widen until he caught the tail end of Nagi's frantic thoughts. ~-arello?!~


   Taketori was leaning nonchalantly against a counter. A sword was in its sheath, resting a few feet away. The man finished his drink and set it aside, spinning it on its base with two fingers. The two enemies stared at each other in silence for a long moment. Aya lowered himself into a fighting stance, eyes narrowing, one hand raising to turn off his headset. His violet gaze was deadly as he spoke.

    "Where is my sister?"

    "Your mind is always on business, Ran." Taketori made a clicking noise of disapproval, pushing the glass out of his way. "Don't you ever fixate on anything else? Where's the gift I bought you? Surely you brought the handcuffs."

    "Where is Aya-chan?" Aya asked, tone icy. He took a step forward. The world flickered dangerously before his eyes and he fought to steady himself before Taketori noticed. The man did, though, and smiled slightly.

    "Nice darts, hm? Not poisonous, no. I wouldn't want any permanent damage done to you yet, not before we've had a chance to play. Surely you remember this game?" Taketori pulled his sleeve down slightly, pressing his mouth to his wrist, eyes locked on Aya where the much younger man stood across the room.

    Flashes of memory- feeling Taketori's mouth on his wrists, feeling that damned bastard's tongue touch the skin where he'd torn it trying to get away, feeling a chubby hand roam under his shirt. Taketori had cut off most of the buttons that morning so he'd be able to get to the skin. Just remembering it made Aya shudder, so fiercely that he couldn't hide it. Taketori smirked.

    "You remember that, do you?" Taketori lowered his hand. "You know, you surprised me, Ran. I didn't expect you to bring Schwarz into this. What did you do to make them help? I suppose they came along for the ride. I can see why Schuldig would want to come, but he's not here. No matter. They will all be disposed of easily."

    Aya was going to kill him. He could slowly feel his tight, neat ball of anger start to expand. He reached out mentally, trying to tuck the stray strands back in where they belonged. "You tell me where my sister is, or you will regret the day your parents ever gave birth to you, scumbag."

    "Your sister, hm?" Taketori finally paid attention to the question. The man laughed, amusement dancing in his eyes. "You poor, pathetic creature." An icy feeling gnawed away at Aya's heart. Taketori's tone was so victorious, so confident. "What makes you think I'd risk the chance of letting you get her anymore?"

    "Tell me where she is!"

    Taketori calmly picked up his sheath, drawing his blade. "She's dead, Ran."


   Omi was taking out several men with darts when he heard Aya's voice: "Taketori..." Then there was a click as Aya switched off his headset so he could concentrate. Omi smiled slightly in satisfaction. Good- one of their targets was found. Balinese and Siberian were on their way to the basement, where a laboratory was. That was where they had decided Hayabushi Mitsutaka would most likely be hiding. In a few moments Omi was going to join them, after he'd cleared out the guards on this level.

    "Farfarello?" came Nagi's voice. The boy sounded cautious but also urgent.

    "Nagi, status?" Omi asked immediately.

    "Farfarello wandered off. Ch', stupid man. We were ambushed, and he was caught pretty good on one guy's hook."

    "Stand by." Omi dropped back to a part of the hall that was darkened from where the bulb had been shattered, crouching and flicking open his computer. Nagi and Farfarello _had_ to stay together, Nagi had said. Farfarello did not have Crawford or Schuldig around to give him orders he would listen to, so there was no telling how much further Farfarello would slip into a killing spree. Nagi could keep him under some control with his gift, but if Farfarello had wandered off to further hurt God and avenge what had happened to Schuldig, Nagi couldn't stick close enough by to make sure his power kept Farfarello in line.

    The screen came up quickly, small dots glowing where every headset was. There were only five, as Aya had turned his off. Omi's eyes slid across the layout quickly, identifying each one. He placed his finger over one that was moving rapidly towards the side staircase, the way Nagi and Farfarello had come in. "Nagi, ready?"


    "There's a door on your left. Go through it and keep straight for four doorways on your right. The fifth opens up to the stairwell you came up on. Farfarello's aiming for the stairs, and moving fast."

    "Why's he going back the way we came?" Nagi demanded, sounding irritated. On the screen his light started after Farfarello's. "There's nothing back that way except dead bodies!"

    "I'm not sure."

    Omi pulled up a multi-squared screen with eight views from outside cameras. Maybe Farfarello had heard something? He saw a flicker of orange and white in one screen, and maximized it. Schuldig and Crawford were moving across the lawn, towards the building. "Nagi, Balinese, Siberian, Crawford and Schuldig have arrived."

    "That's who Farfarello's after? Schuldig?"

    "That's my guess," Omi answered the disgruntled telekinetic.


   Farfarello met them at the door, amber eye half-glazed. A deep, jagged cut ran across his front, going from his stomach to his shoulder. It was bleeding nastily, but Farfarello ignored it. He couldn't feel it, so he didn't need to worry about it, in his mind. Crawford heard Schuldig's almost silent sharp gasp. The telepath flickered foward, one hand touching the wound lightly.

    "Stupid little Irishman," Schuldig sighed, attempting to keep his tone neutral. Crawford could hear the tight undertones, though. Farfarello's wound was not going to be easily remedied with just a bandaid and a pat on the head, nor with any of Nagi's ministrations. "Why the hell weren't you paying attention to that man?"

    Well, now Crawford knew why Schuldig had taken the last part of the drive like he'd been drag racing. Crawford moved past them with a brusque "See to him." As he passed, he reached out and took Farfarello's headset from the Irishman. He slipped it on his own head, adjusting the microphone near his mouth and pressing the ear piece where it belonged.

    "Has Taketori been found yet?"

    Omi's tinny voice replied. "Abyssinian is with him."

    "Where's Farfarello?" Nagi asked. "With Schuldig?"v

    "Bombay's floor is cleared. Siberian, Balinese, status?"

    "Back-up would be nice," Siberian answered. "They've got a lot of buggers down here, guarding the place. We haven't made much progress at all."

    "Nagi and Bombay are on their way to help. Nagi, meet me on the second floor, where the entrance to the laboratory branches off."


    Crawford lightly touched his bandaged arm as he made his way through the house. The layout was interesting, but he had no trouble making it across the floor. The twists had a faint pattern to them that he had seen in another of Taketori's minion's headquarters. While they were not the same, they were close enough that he was confident he wouldn't get lost. Besides, the guards had been cleared. The floor seemed to be a sea of blood left behind by the efficient assassins that had passed through here just twenty-odd minutes ago. The smell of blood was metallic and tangy, familiar but at the same time, there was too much.

    He started up the stairs. "What floor are Taketori and Abyssinian on?"

    "Top," came Omi's quick reply. "Just beware of darts."

    Crawford didn't reply, instead turning off his headset. He pulled his gun out of his pocket, checking it. Empty. He hoped he wouldn't need it. He replaced it in his pocket, his long strides taking him to the stairwell quickly. Trusting his gift to warn him if any traps were about to be sprung, he started up the stairs, one image firmly fixed in his mind-

    Aya, bleeding, stumbling back and hitting the railings surrounding the roof. Something about his eyes was decided off- they were dilated too much, as if he was drugged. Taketori, charging. Aya was too off-balance. One brush and the redhead would go straight over the roof.

    Crawford's steps sped up unconsciously. He would not let that happen. He didn't care what else happened, anymore, but Aya was _not_ going to get hurt further.


    The small cage that had been designed to keep his anger back was made of glass- fine woven, crystal clear, fragile. At Taketori's words Aya could hear cracks running through the glass. He stared at Taketori, unable to move, unable to think or speak or _breathe_, just stared as Taketori's words played in a repeat. Finally he got his breath, and let it out shakily with the simple word "No."

    Taketori adjusted the hilt of his sword in his hand, moving towards a small door. A sign hung above it, labelled "ROOF". The man laughed, the sound cruel in Aya's ears. "You didn't think I'd let her live, did you? If you _did_ manage to beat me, why give you the extra victory of taking your sister back safely?"

    "You're lying!" Aya yelled at him.

    "No, I'm not. I sent her to some friends to dispose of- my most loyal friends. By now she is probably in a dump somewhere, where no one will find her, nor remember her, with homeless people stealing her clothes for their own and taking her hair to play with."

    The glass shattered.

    "KOROSHITE YARU!!" Aya screamed at him, lunging forward. Taketori was barely able to bring up his sword in time. Aya was moving with pure hatred fueling his veins, and their swords clashed fiercely together. Taketori staggered back, his weight and strength helping keep the sword from sinking into his flesh. The two blades scratched against each other for several long moments before they both pulled away, Aya's eyes narrowed to thin slits so that they seemed to glow purple with cold, raw fury.

    Aya lunged again, sword arching down in what was to be a fatal blow. Taketori ducked backwards, slipping through the door to the stairs that would lead him to the roof. Aya's sword cut the wooded door clean in half down the middle. He grabbed one side by the doorknob and viciously threw it to one side, boots slapping against the floor as he made after his prey. Taketori was not going to get away! Not now, not ever again! He would die _now_!

    Aya's entire being was focused on his target, his body singing with hate. A thicker wave of blackness swept through him and he stumbled, cracking a shin painfully on one of the concrete stairs. He grabbed the railing with his free hand, pulling himself to his feet. His vision was tinged dark at the sides, but he ignored it. He was not going to fall, not now that this cursed man, this devil, was so close within his reach. His gaze locked on Taketori where the man stood a short distance away, waiting, and the part of Aya's mind that was still rational- a tiny, tiny part- told him Taketori was merely going to block and defend until the drug had knocked Aya out.

    Aya's lips parted, baring his teeth slightly. His grip tightened on his sword. "SHI-NE!" he yelled, pressing the attack. Taketori met him, and for long moments the only world that existed was their eyes locked, their blades whistling through the air to hit and slide against each other's swords. Aya's hands were numb from the vibrations being sent down from the impacts, but he didn't care. Taketori was going to die. Die die die die die die DIE DAMN IT!

    The man who took away his mother. The man who took away his father. The man who took away his sister. The man who raped Schuldig. The man who had caused his team mates- his friends- so much pain. The man who had hurt so many innocents. Aya ached with the desire to see this man's death.

    A boot planted itself in his abdomen and he staggered back. There was another blinding flash of blackness. He had the distinct feeling of being pushed, and he kicked fiercely back at whoever was there. He crashed into a metal railing that only went to mid-thigh and felt himself leaning backwards as his eyes refocused. He glanced over his shoulder, and was given a dizzying view down the side of the eight story building. He was leaning halfway over the railing, balanced on the back of his heels. Moving either forward or backward would result in the same thing- a nice plunge.

    He faced back in front of him. Taketori was charging- whether to grab him or to give him the extra boost Aya didn't know or care. His grip on his sword had been lost in that last moment of dizziness, and it lay several feet away. It was getting hard to see because of the darkness that was yanking so insistantly at him. Taketori was near him, hands outstretched. Aya moved, knowing even as he did it that he was sealing his own fate. In the background he saw a flash of white and brown, but he ignored it, arms snapping out to grab Taketori, using every last bit of his strength to lift the man up. They both tilted backwards. Aya had the satisfaction of seeing Taketori's eyes widen in horror as they went over the side of the roof, and he released Taketori. The man was heavier. Maybe he'd fall faster and Aya would have the pleasure of watching his fat ass splat against the ground in the last few seconds of his life.

    With these thoughts in his mind, Aya began to fall.

Part 9